Creative Class of 2015: Michael Bearden

Michael-Bearden-Arkansan-of-the-Year-220x300Dancer and visionary Michael Bearden is in his third season as Ballet Arkansas‘ Artistic Director.  Prior to that he spent two years as Artistic Advisor to the company.

During his tenure at Ballet Arkansas Michael has brought works to the repertoire by choreographers such as Val Caniparoli, Gerald Arpino and George Balanchine. A native of Searcy, Arkansas, he received his training at the Academy of Ballet Arkansas and went on to have a fourteen year career with Ballet West, in Salt Lake City. As a Principal Dancer at Ballet West, Michael performed leading roles in ballets by some of the world’s greatest choreographers including Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, Forsythe, Stevenson, Welch, Dove, Tetley, Tharp, Kylian and Christopher Bruce.

As a choreographer, Michael has created or staged his works for Ballet West, the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, the University of Cincinnati, Belhaven University and Texas Christian University. Michael is grateful for the continued opportunity to give back to the community by helping to guide Ballet Arkansas to new heights.

Under his leadership with the Ballet, the company has sponsored two Visions choreographic competitions, premiered several new works, and presented the first performance of George Balanchine’s Who Cares? in Arkansas.  He has also been instrumental in the company’s plans to move into the Creative Corridor on Main Street.

Nutcracker and New Pieces are part of 2015-16 Ballet Arkansas season

BA_Visions_PromoImageWhile it is only the start of July, cultural institutions are already focused on their 2015-2016 seasons.  This is especially true for Ballet Arkansas, which has its first event on August 22nd.

Ballet Arkansas starts off with the second annual Visions Choreographic Competition to be held in the Center for Performing Arts at UALR on August 22nd at 7:00pm. Thirty-one emerging choreographers from around the country competed for five spots in this competition of which the winner will receive a commission to create a complete new work on Ballet Arkansas’s company dancers for their 2016 spring show. Selected choreographers include Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev, former Houston Ballet’s and current University of Oklahoma dance faculty member Ilya Kozadayev, former Ballet West and Visceral Dance Chicago’s Tom Mattingly, former Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Barry Kerollis and Post: Ballet’s Aidan DeYoung.  The guest judge for Visions is Glenn Edgerton, Artistic Director for Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago. Tickets for Visions will go on sale July 1st on the Ballet Arkansas website.

BA_Nutcracker_PromoImage 2In December, Ballet Arkansas joins forces with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to present the  annual holiday ballet, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.  With music provided by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, a cast of 200+ youth and adult dancers from the central Arkansas area, professional guest artists and featuring Ballet Arkansas professional company members, The Nutcracker will continue its tradition as a holiday must-see. The Nutcracker performance week includes student matinees for statewide school groups on December 10 & 11, along with the four public performances on December 11, 12 and 13th.  Tickets for The Nutcracker will go on sale in early September on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s website.

BA_UndertheLights_PromoImageOn May 20-22, 2016 Ballet Arkansas will present its annual spring mixed-repertory show,  Under the Lights at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. This year’s show contains an eclectic group of works of various dance styles including Nashville Ballet dancer Chris Stuarts’ Under the Lights set to Johnny Cash songs including “Walk the Line” and “Jackson”.  This show also features a world premier of a Kiyon Gaines work and Group Therapy, a comedy ballet created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago by Harrison McEldowney and the expanded Visions winning choreography. Ballet Arkansas is also delighted to announce that itwill again be performing a George Balanchine work, Glinka Pas de Trois. Tickets will go on sale in early fall on the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s website.

Ballet Arkansas also announced that it has engaged Kiyon Gaines, recently retired Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist, to a 3-year Resident Choreographer Contract.  He choreographed Bolero for the 2013-2014 season.  In addition, Laura Hood Babcock has been named the new ballet mistress.  She worked with Ballet Arkansas last season on the Balanchine Who Cares?  Michael Bearden is the Artistic Director and Karen Bassett is the Executive Director.

THE NUTCRACKER this weekend performed by Ballet Arkansas with music by the ASO

nutcracker_1Celebrate the season with your professional ballet company as we continue a favorite Christmas tradition performing The Nutcracker accompanied by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Geoffrey Robson. The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker doll and their wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and Kingdom of Sweets. Every year this fun filled production creates lifelong memories for hundreds of Arkansas families.

Under the direction of Artistic Director Michael Bearden with choreography by ballet mistress Marla Edwards and choreographers Allison Stodola Wilson, Jana Beard, and Traci Presley, Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker will be the highlight of the holiday season. Accompanied by the largest ever cast of local actors and dance students from across Arkansas, this year’s production will feature Ballet Arkansas company members Leslie Dodge, Toby Lewellen, Justin Metcalf-Burton, Lauren McCarty Horak, Paul Tillman, Amanda Sewell, Lauren Bodenheimer, Deanna Karlheim, Megan Hustel, Tony Sewer, Hannah Bradshaw and apprentice Georgia Quinn. This year’s guest artists include audience favorites UALR professor Stephen K. Stone as Herr Drosselmeyer and Eric Harrison as Mother Ginger, Tom Mattingly appearing courtesy of Visceral Dance as Cavalier opposite Leslie Dodge as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Colin Hathaway appearing courtesy of Ballet West as Snow King opposite Megan Hustel and in Arabian.

The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift, the ideal means of introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season. Make Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker part of your holiday celebration this December! To purchase tickets for the December 12th, 13th or 14th public shows to The Nutcracker, visit or call 501-666-1761. Tickets range from $20-$52.

Performances began last night and continue today at 2pm and 7:30pm and tomorrow at 2pm.  This year The Nutcracker is being performed at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.

Ballet Arkansas Springs in to Motion

SpringIntoMotionWeb2World premiere choreography as well as classic ballet performed by Ballet Arkansas’ Professional Company is coming to the stage at The Arkansas Repertory Theater.

Ballet Arkansas’ new concert, Spring into Motion, will run from April 5-7, 2013 at The Rep. Directed by former Ballet Arkansas dancer Michael Bearden – currently a principal dancer at Ballet West in Salt Lake City – Spring into Motion will not only present dances by national choreographers, but also showcase the immense physical talents of Ballet Arkansas’ Professional Company.

“This show brings Arkansas audiences high-quality choreographers who are currently creating works on ballet companies throughout the country,” Bearden said. In addition to classics such as Don Quixote and Black Swan, Spring into Motion boasts two newly commissioned works by nationally known choreographers Darrell Grand Moultrie and Peter Zweifel, as well as a contemporary work titled Mobile, which has recently delighted audiences of Joffrey Ballet Co., San Francisco Ballet and Kansas City Ballet.

Spring into Motion marks an important step in the evolution of Ballet Arkansas. For the first time, the company will perform at Arkansas Repertory Theatre in downtown Little Rock.   This production will be the first collaboration between Ballet Arkansas and The Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and “this collaboration adds a new dimension to what arts patrons can enjoy on The Rep stage,” said Bob Hupp, producing artistic director at Arkansas Rep.

Tickets are available through The Rep box office at (501) 378-0405 or online at  Tickets are $35 for Orchestra and First Mezzanine seating and $30 for Second Mezzanine seating. Spring into Motion will open Friday, April 5, 2013 with an evening performance starting at 7:30 p.m. Other show times include an evening performance on Saturday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee on Sunday, April 7 at 2:00 p.m. Student Matinees for Spring into Motion at The Rep are currently scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on April 3, 4, and 5 for statewide student groups.

Spring into Motion will travel to the University of Central Arkansas’ Reynolds Center for a student matinee and an evening performance on Thursday, April 18. Show times include 1:00 p.m. for the student matinee and 7:30 p.m. for the evening performance. To purchase tickets for the evening performance, visit All student matinee program reservations can be made by calling (501) 223-5150 or emailing for reservation information.

Ballet Arkansas Master Class by Christopher Ruud

FBLOGO 2Ballet West Principal Artist Christopher Ruud will teach an open master class for intermediate and advanced dancers this evening, September 12th. The class begins at 7:00pm and will conclude at 9:00pm. This is the second class in Ballet Arkansas’ Master Class series. Son of respected dancer and choreographer Tomm Ruud, Christopher is proud to be responsible for his father’s works. Christopher has set and performed his fathers ballet’s, such as Mobile, for companies including Stuttgart Ballet, Ballet West, Joffrey Ballet Co. and now Ballet Arkansas.

During his time in Arkansas, Mr. Ruud will be setting Mobile on the company to be performed in Ballet Arkansas’ spring concert, Spring into Motion, at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in April 2013.

The master class will be offered at the Ballet Arkansas Studio at Shuffles and Ballet II.  There is a $25 class fee or a $15 observer fee. Space is limited, please email us at to reserve your spot.

A native of San Francisco, Christopher began his training at the San Francisco Ballet School. There he studied for seven years before training at the University of Utah Ballet Department. Christopher joined Ballet West in 1998, was promoted to Soloist in 2001 and Principal in 2004. Since joining the company Christopher has toured throughout the United States and abroad including multi-city tours in China and in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Some of his notable roles include Petruchio in John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew, the Second Pas de Deux in Antony Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading, Prince Seigfried in Swan Lake, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet .  Christopher has performed the principal roles in multiple versions of such classics as Swan LakeThe Sleeping BeautyGiselle, Cinderella , Don Quixote and Le Corsaire Pas de Deux.  He has also danced leading roles in works by Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Jiri Kylian, Antony Tudor, Val Caniparoli, Hans van Manen and Nicolo Fonte.

Christopher’s favorite Balanchine credits include Liza in Who Cares?, Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream,  Serenade, Melancholic and Sanguinic in The Four TemperamentsTchaikovsky Pas de Deux, El Capitan in Stars and Stripesand the principal in Theme and Variations. Recently he has had works created on him by Nicolo Fonte in The Immeasurable Cadences WithinHelen Picket in But Never Doubt I Love and Charlotte Boye-Christensen in Row.